Sunday, March 17, 2013

Trust--Don't Shame--Local Associations

If elected, I hope to end the policy which shames local associations who, through no fault of their own, are unable to meet the ethnic minority/people of color representation requirement in their WEA-RA delegations.

The WEA’s constitution requires that local associations make every “reasonable and legal” effort to increase the participation of members of color. I support and act in service of that goal. I strongly oppose how the goal is translated in the Standing Rules of the WEA-RA.

When my local was unable to pressure one of our handful of minority members to attend WEA-RAs two years in a row, we were forced to write a plan, which was rejected, rewrite the plan, have our entire delegation placed on hold, and then be visited by WEA. We don’t need or want WEA scrutiny and sanction to work in service of a goal we respect.

An unintended consequence of WEA oversight of locals, through no fault of their own, who are not able to meet their member of color requirement is a negative aura that somehow good and decent WEA members are not committed to inclusivity or diversity—or that they are not competent or sufficiently aware of their own memberships.

This RA, my delegation will include a member of color, a former student of mine who now works in my building. In order to avoid scrutiny and sanction by the WEA, I leveraged my special connection with him to pressure him to come to the WEA-RA. No other members receive special pressure to attend the RA. I also made special arrangements to have his wife and first child accompany him. Since my local has sustained a reduction in members, our budget normally would not allow for successor delegates, but, again, to avoid scrutiny and sanction by the WEA, we’re adding costs.

Now, I am glad that he has agreed to attend the RA, and, again, I support the goal of increasing diversity in our union. But because all of our members must belong to all four levels of union representation—local, Uniserv, WEA, and NEA—and because almost all of our local associations do not have anywhere near the state’s minority percentage (28% in 2010), the requirement to have a particular number of minority delegates attend or endure scrutiny and sanction is unfair.

Keep the goal. Leave the determination and implementation of efforts to include and increase minority participation in the hands of local leaders. WEA should be a resource which could be called upon as each local decided it needed help.

If I were WEA president, I would trust local associations.

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